Why Is The GMAT/GRE Necessary?

Posted on 11/05/2018

Both the GRE and the GMAT may seem like necessary evils, and in some respects, they are. However, they serve many different purposes for many different people and organizations, from individuals to entire graduate programs. With quite a few good options for schools that don’t require GMAT or GRE scores, you might be asking yourself why bother with the tests in the first place. Besides showing commitment to your career path and even testing your ability to handle a graduate school workload, it’s simply a good idea to take either exam if you have even the slightest interest in pursuing postgraduate studies.


The answer should be obvious, right? You need to take the GMAT or the GRE, depending on your choice of school, because it’s a requirement. Thousands of programs around the United States alone accept (and require) the GRE, and even some MBA programs in the US will accept the GRE instead of the usual GMAT. In fact, if you are unsure about which higher education path you want to take, taking the GRE is a great way to “cover all your bases” in case you want to pursue a non-MBA or an MBA program. However, if you’re set on an MBA program, the GMAT is certainly your best choice. But why, you might ask? Why should you bother when there are plenty of great schools that don’t require the GRE and MBA programs that don’t require the GMAT? Let’s start with the GMAT:

Why take the GMAT?

First and foremost, if you’re unsure as to whether you want to pursue an MBA, taking the GMAT can be a great litmus test to see if you might succeed in a business management program, considering that plenty of research has been done on how well the GMAT can predict a candidate’s potential success in the first year of an MBA. In addition to providing yourself with an indication of potential success, the GMAT test itself is constantly being evaluated and revised, in order to continually improve its ability to predict potential graduate student success. If you are, indeed, serious about pursuing an MBA, taking the GMAT can even tip off potential schools, showing your commitment to the process and letting them know that you’re taking this step very seriously.

Also, your score on the GMAT and your eventual admission into a program, if you choose this route, plays a significant role in the program’s rankings, so you’ll be contributing to the overall reputation of the program you decide to join. All of these factors play into a school’s decision to require a GMAT submission; with a history of peer-reviewed studies that tout it as a valid indicator of success and its ability to boost a school or program’s rankings, business management programs have good reason to require a score.

Why take the GRE?

Again, thousands of schools require the GRE, which, for some, is reason enough to take it in the first place. However, consider the situation posed above; if you’re unsure as to what path you might want to take in your post-graduate career, the GRE is a great option to have in your back pocket, so to speak. With a validity of 5 years, just like the GMAT, you can take the GRE and keep that score until you’re ready to decide on a program. And unlike the GMAT, some MBA programs will accept the GRE score instead of a GMAT score, which keeps your options wide open if you’re truly unsure of your path.

While the GMAT may be far more open about its aim to get you to think logically and prepare you to think and reason as a businessperson, the GRE has the exact same aim, even if GRE preparation seems to intentionally obfuscate the importance of your scores. The GRE’s three sections, the quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, and analytical writing sections may seem to be designed just to see if you can memorize long-forgotten skills (which, to some extent, it does), but it also challenges you to manage your time wisely and study skillfully within the timeframe you have. You’ll never memorize everything; the real test, the real GRE, is to determine whether or not you can manage the task as a whole, to prepare for it intelligently, and take it calmly, no matter how much pressure you’re under. Graduate school will put you under similar strains, and the GRE mimics those strains.

Take the test to cover your bases

Whether you’re taking the GMAT because you’re dead-set on getting into a great MBA program or just taking the GRE to see how you do and figure out if you want to continue on to graduate studies, the biggest and best reason is to take the test, whichever test, for yourself. Take it to cover your bases, because if you have an inkling that you might want that MA, or PhD someday, it won’t hurt (too much) to spend some time and money to prepare and take the exam. Ultimately, the exam is giving you a small taste of what graduate programs will ask of you, and what they ask of you may often seem like too much.

And indeed, it may seem like these standardized tests are asking too much of you, but that’s precisely the point; if all the reasons thus far weren’t enough to convince you that taking the GRE or the GMAT is worthwhile, take it for yourself. Take it so that if, down the line, you decide to pursue a postgraduate career, you’ll be prepared. You’ll have checked off one thing off the list of many things that go into a graduate school application, and possibly even see if graduate life is right for you.

Written by
William Clay Shrout
My name's Will Shrout, and I'm currently working in Hanoi, Vietnam as a private English consultant and content editor for a Southeast Asian travel company. As a former graduate student at the University of Texas, Austin and course instructor in the Classical Studies department, I've found that I can transfer and apply my teaching skills to almost any job I land in, which is why I choose to leave academia and write about it instead. I still love teaching, and I learn something new every day, but I aim to show the world that there is so much teaching and learning to be done outside of the traditional ideas of classrooms and academic boundaries.